Earlier Toninho Horta albums mined the rich Brazilian-pop vein the guitarist explored so strikingly with Nascimento. On Once I Loved, Horta enlists the services of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Billy Higgins to make an album of stripped-down trio jazz that is still purely his own. No matter how many times you've heard "Lullaby of Birdland" or "Stella by Starlight," these left-field versions, with their thoroughly revamped harmonies and brooding classical-guitar arpeggios, will be a revelation.
And there are several originals that feature Horta's haunting, wordless singing and guitar overdubs. With enough lyricism to hook pop fans, along with enough invention to satisfy the most demanding jazz listener, Once I Loved shines with a uniquely personal light.
Gary Lucas's Gods and Monsters is available from Enemy Productions, 11-36 Thirty-first Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11106. (RS 649)